CREATHON 2020 was organised by the Singapore National Co-operative Federation (SNCF) on 18 to 19 January this year. Being the first ever co-operative business challenge organised in Singapore, Creathon was significant as it helped introduce the concept of co-operatives to many of our youths.

SNCF Chairman Mr Kwek Kok Kwong gave an opening address.

SNCF Chairman Mr Kwek Kok Kwong gave an opening address.

Over the course of two days, secondary students and youths aged 17 to 35 (Singaporeans or Permanent Residents) in two separate categories worked in teams of five to develop solutions to address existing social challenges. Creathon was a business design sprint based on the co-operative model to develop team-building skills, business development and innovative thinking among youths.

Knowledge Sharing Session with Mr Matthew Poh, Co-founder of The Caffeine Experience.

Knowledge Sharing Session with Mr Matthew Poh, Co-founder of The Caffeine Experience.

After the opening address and an introduction to co-operatives, participants attended knowledge sharing sessions where they gained some business insights from co-operative members and social enterprise entrepreneurs.

One of the speakers, Mr Matthew Poh shared how he turned from a drug addict and dealer to co-founding The Caffeine Experience to provide employment for ex-offenders and those who have had brushes with the law. It was motivational and inspiring.

At the end of each sharing session, there was question and answer moment and hands shot up enthusiastically to ask the speakers about their financial struggles or the process of setting up their enterprise. This exchange between speakers and participants allowed everyone to connect with like-minded individuals with a strong entrepreneurial spirit and a desire to solve societal issues.

Creathon 2020 Breakout session

During the breakout session in the afternoon, participants brainstormed ideas that could adopt the co-operative structure and the pitch that they had to present the next day. Groups discussed on how to address the social issues, and how to feasibly incorporate their ideation using the co-operative structure.

For instance, the team, EzEnlist in the Open Category identified that due to the long travelling time to and fro from their camps to their residence, full-time national servicemen (NSFs) have little time to spend with their loved ones. They proposed setting up a co-operative that could provide affordable shuttle service for NSFs to cut travelling times so as to promote more time for meaningful relationships.

The team, Book a Book in the School Category aimed to help students from low-income families by setting up a co-operative to sell essential school items such as writing paper and stationery in schools, adopting the “Pay It Forward” concept.

The breakout sessions gave us a glimpse of different perspectives and allowed us to learn more about the existing social challenges that our youths are passionate about. Many of these participants were extremely passionate about various social issues, and managed to come up with creative business ideas after the introduction to the co-operative structure.

On the second day, participants had a few more hours to wrap up their ideation, before pitching their co-operative idea to a panel of esteemed judges. The atmosphere in the room was noticeably tense as groups scrambled to get their presentation slides ready. Ultimately, the participants pulled through, pitching their ideas with confidence and clarity, and impressing judges with relevant facts and figures to prove that their business idea was feasible.

In the School Category, the team, STUDYlah from Anglican High School proposed setting up a co-operative to help students to better manage their school life by  designing a mobile application to deal with the high stress levels. The application they made left a lasting impression on the judges!

The team, Fruitful from Dunman High School managed to wow the judges with their smooth articulation of their idea. The team performed a small skit using customer personas effectively to demonstrate how their application encouraged people to change their shopping habits, and achieved their goal of reducing food waste.

The business pitching soon drew to a close. Participants waited anxiously as the judges selected the winners. When approached, many of them described their Creathon 2020 experience as “fun”, “fulfilling”, “eye-opening”, “enriching” and “innovative”: it seemed that most of our participants really enjoyed participating in Creathon 2020!

Finally, it was time for the emcees to release the results of the top three winning teams of both categories of Creathon 2020 – the suspense was heavy, but full of hope!

Photograph of the School Category team that won the 2nd runner up.

STUDYlah from Anglican High School emerged as the 2nd runner up in the School Category. In their pitch, the team managed to skilfully link back to the co-operative structure by introducing students as members of their co-operative, and emphasized the co-operative values of self-help and mutual help!

Photograph of the School Category team that won the 1st runner up.

Fruitful from Dunman High School rejoiced when they were announced as the 1st runner up. Their understanding of the membership in the co-operative structure, as well as their innovative solution to solving the problem of food wastage helped them to clinch the silver medal.

Photograph of the winning team of the School Category.

Finally, there were all smiles when the team, Enigma from Raffles Girls School emerged the winner of the School Category. The team worked on setting up a co-operative that could provide more affordable options to disadvantaged primary school students, giving them more opportunities so as to lessen the educational inequality.

The synergy and passion shown by Enigma was evident when they worked together. Identifying their members as the disadvantaged students and working to benefit its members, the team laid out their concrete co-operative framework based on collaboration with members’ primary schools, promotion through their partner schools to gain support, and action by launching a successful service.

Their win was very well deserved and showed the team’s in-depth understanding of co-operatives!

After the thunderous round of applause, the silence in the room was deafening and everyone buzzed with anticipation for the Open Category results.

Photograph of the Open Category team that won the 2nd runner up.

With the goal of empowering students from low-income families who lack support in academic areas and a positive role model, the team, MPowering the NextGen offered student-centric academic support to enhance these students’ potential.

The group had a clear vision of their co-operative which helped ensure their plans were feasible. Their detailed understanding of the co-operative structure allowed them to map out a sturdy membership model that consists of ordinary members, associate members and institutional members who would have equal voting rights.

MPowering the NextGen’s good balance of social impact and application in the co-operative structure impressed the judges and they clinched the 2nd runner up!

Photograph of the Open Category team that won the 1st runner up.

The team, Cher!, pitched setting up a co-operative to provide a channel for skills and knowledge sharing. Through online sharing of both academic and non-academic skills, the team created a channel that revolutionised sharing, learning and earnings for the tertiary community.

The team had a deep understanding of the co-operative values, namely solidarity, equality, equity, democracy, mutual help and self-help. Their ability to incorporate the co-operative values to create a non-discriminatory, equal community that supports each other helped them to clinch the 1st runner up in the Open Category!

Photograph of the winning team of the Open Category.

Loud cheers erupted from the audience when Social Tourism Enterprise Partnership (STEP), a team that advocated bridging tourism to connect communities, was announced as the winner.

Believing that the majority of tourist spending focused only on a few geographic and industry sectors, STEP constructed a business-to-business (B2B) platform to connect the local communities with the tourism providers. The solution aims to provide unique cultural experiences for tourists; and at the same time, increase visitor traffic for local businesses. Their ideation clinched the grand prize of $4,000, and will receive a funding of $10,000 if their application as a co-operative is successful.

Group photo of the Creathon 2020 winning teams.

The energy of the participants was palpable – everyone showed a strong entrepreneurial spirit and had creative ideas to address the social issue which they are passionate about. In addition, the participants walked away with greater awareness of co-operatives, and how they have impacted lives. We hope that our participants will be more inspired to be entrepreneurs or set up co-operatives to serve our community.

Creathon 2020 would not have been such a success without the help of our co-host, A Good Space, and our partners, sponsors, staff and participants. We would like to thank TCC Credit Co-operative for sponsoring the lucky draw prizes, as well as Singapore Statutory Boards Employees’ Co-operative for sponsoring the food and drinks. Thank you for your participation, and we will see you again next year!

This article was brought to you by Charmaine Leow Shu Yan, a Year 5 student from Dunman High School. She was an intern at SNCF from 7 to 24 January for her Work Experience Programme. Her hobbies include creative writing, playing the piano and café hopping.